Cleanliness is Next to Homeliness

Winston-Salem and my hometown might as well be on different planets. What I mean is this:  I am from a microscopic town called Statesville, which many of you may have driven through.  It’s located about 40 miles west of here, and is basically the junction of Interstates 40 and 77.  Therefore, many of you may have driven through it in order to get to and/or from your homes.  It’s not so small that I can accurately say “if you blink then you’ll miss it,” as it is gaudily apparent—there are approximately seventy thousand car dealerships along one interstate and about the same number of fast food restaurants along the other, as well as the most revolting Wal-Mart I have ever set foot in.  It is one of the most badly designed cities in the entire world, as there are always more cars on the streets than currently exist in the entire Western Hemisphere.  Where they are all going I still am not sure, as there is usually no critical time factor involved in going to either a fast food restaurant or car dealership.

But I don’t care to dwell on the existence of my sad hometown, as I have already spent enough time there.  When I got back to my dorm room after the winter break, the first thing that I noticed upon re-entering was how grody it had managed to become over the break.  I had forgotten that I had left plants in here, and so they were of course as dead and shriveled as Abe Vigoda.  In addition I had failed to properly defrost my refrigerator, so there were giant stinky mold splotches inside, all growing directly on the plastic.  Moreover, I’d left books and papers and magazines strewn everywhere, and the room had developed a strangely indescribable “funk.”

On top of the nastiness level the room had seemed to acquire over the four weeks I was gone, there was no edible food.  Of course I still had the things that my mom is always giving me—food that I don’t really like or want, but I take it anyway so that I’ll seem like a “good son” instead of an ungrateful brat.  Also, I had soup, yet I did not have a can opener. This meant that the entirety of my food inventory included three boxes of instant Quaker Oatmeal (I don’t like oatmeal), some sort of fruit-flavored candy cane (I ate it), two cans of soup (I couldn’t open them), various empty cereal boxes, and three half-empty bottles of water in the refrigerator that the mold had managed to partially consume.

Obviously this was not a habitable environment, so I slammed the door shut and ran away screaming like a five-year-old girl straight to a grocery store to buy food and cleaning supplies.

People have told me that they don’t like going shopping with me, because I supposedly can’t act “normal” in public.  I think, personally, that this is a ridiculous assertion, and that there is nothing at all abnormal about taking extra time to ridicule stupid product names such as “Rice Dream” (it sounds kind of racist, doesn’t it?) or bizarre items such as pork brains in milk gravy.  But it’s not as if I attack old women or break things (on purpose).

Anyway, my first task was to get supplies to clean the room with. Since I watch far too much TV, I remembered the jingle for Glade Plug-Ins and decided that those would probably work well to conquer the “room funk.”  This led me to remember hanging out at my friend Braden’s house in high school; he and his mom were both smokers, but you would never have known it from being in their house because Braden’s mom would use those electrical outlet expander things in any vacant outlet in order to get at least six of the double-sided Glade Plug-Ins going directly adjacent to each other. She was partial to the lavender scent, I seemed to remember, but I didn’t know at the time that the scent was called lavender. So, since I didn’t know how to do it discreetly, I just grabbed the packages off of the shelf one at a time and tried to smell them. My nose doesn’t work very well to begin with, but I finally found it—the oh-so-masculine scent of “Lilac Spring.”

Having successfully obtained rations and supplies, I came back to school to start cleaning and “re-stocking.”  Before much longer my room was about thirty percent more habitable than it had been previously. That said, after having repeated this entire ordeal three times now since first starting college, I am starting to wonder what my house or apartment or cardboard box or used minivan or whatever it is that I end up living in after college is going to be like in terms of cleanliness.  It’s a challenge for me to use a Swiffer cloth correctly, so I don’t have any clue how I’m going to manage to keep an entire domicile even marginally clean.

Does anyone know if Martha Stewart is still single?

—2002